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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 584

Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:32 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence, I rise today in support of the Prime Minister’s remarks regarding the floods in North, Far North and north-west Queensland. Honourable members would be aware that Cyclone Charlotte, which crossed the coast coming in from the Gulf of Carpentaria earlier this year, was followed this last week by Cyclone Ellie, which authorities are anxiously monitoring, concerned that it may reform in the next 24 to 48 hours. These enormous downpours have resulted in rail, roads and many towns being cut off. The town of Ayr, the hometown of opposition spokesperson for Northern Australia, Senator Ian Macdonald, has today been cut off from road and rail. Earlier this week, as the rain poured, the senator remarked that volumes of water the equivalent of Sydney Harbour itself were poring over the Burdekin dam and down the Burdekin River not far from where he lives. Karumba, a fishing port in the Gulf which has become a popular tourist destination, has been isolated except for by helicopter for six weeks. We are told that this may continue for another month. Townsville has been cut off by road in all directions, and last night a freighter left Townsville for Cairns to deliver supplies.

We in this House pay tribute today to the incredible dedication, diligence and bravery of our emergency services personnel. Many of these men and women will be at or near the point of exhaustion in their struggle to deal with the challenge of getting vital supplies and emergency assistance to the affected areas. Most of them are volunteers, and we extend the nation’s gratitude to them for their tireless contribution. Australians are strong and resilient people and as we know there are none stronger or more resilient than those who live in the north of our great nation. They know that nature can be fickle. As Senator Macdonald said earlier in the week, they have learnt how to live with these natural calamities; it is part of the wet season and they know how to deal with it. But the nation too pulls together behind them and supports them as they respond to these natural disasters and supports them and honours them for their heroism and for their hard work.